Hellweg roughed up in MLB debut as Crew falls
Righty prospect can't make it through second inning after 1-2-3 first
PITTSBURGH -- The Brewers had little choice but to trade Zack Greinke at the deadline last season. The righty was set to become a free agent and demand a big contract, so the club dealt him to the Angels and received Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena in exchange.
An update on the return: Segura has been one of the league's biggest surprises and best shortstops this season. Pena is still in Triple-A. And the book on Hellweg certainly remains open, but Chapter 1 didn't have an ideal conclusion.
Hellweg pitched a perfect first inning in his Major League debut on Friday, but then fell apart after that. He allowed seven runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks in the second inning before being yanked with two outs as the Pirates blew by the Brewers, 10-3, at a sold-out PNC Park.
"He came out trying to throw strikes, trying to aim the ball over the plate instead of throwing it," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "A lot of times that happens, your first outing in the big leagues and you want to make sure you throw strikes. We tried to get him through it so we could get some innings out of him, but we just weren't able to do it."
The Brewers have been searching for answers in the rotation all season, and as the injuries continue to bite them, the solutions just aren't there. Entering Friday, Brewers starting pitchers ranked 29th in ERA (5.00), 28th in opponent's batting average (.282) and 29th in innings (426 1/3). Milwaukee hoped its No. 3 prospect could help give the bullpen a blow and the rotation a boost.
"You hope the next time he goes out and is more aggressive and over the butterflies," Roenicke said. "Sometimes you see it both ways. We'll see what happens next time."
Pittsburgh righty Gerrit Cole labored through the first inning, before Hellweg ever took the mound in a big league game. Cole walked Norichika Aoki then allowed singles to Segura and Carlos Gomez before drilling Aramis Ramirez in the hip to score a run.
Jonathan Lucroy then grounded into a double play to score Segura, and Juan Francisco singled home Gomez, who went 2-for-5 in his return to the lineup after injuring his left shoulder in a collision with the wall on Sunday. Gomez said the shoulder is still a little sore, but expected that and has no problem playing through it.
"It's nice," Hellweg said of the run support. "But to get three runs before you ever step on the mound, it's tough to go out and give up seven after what we did in the first."
Hellweg lost control of things the next inning. Neil Walker drove in two with a double, then the rookie walked Travis Snider and Cole, getting a groundout in between. Starling Marte drove in a run with a single, then Russell Martin scored another two when Segura couldn't come up with a short-hop grounder for an error.
Pedro Alvarez, up for the second time in the inning, knocked in Martin with a single after an Andrew McCutchen RBI knock. Reliever Tom Gorzelanny finally stopped the bleeding by getting Walker to ground out.
"[Hellweg] had some command challenges," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "His first game, and there's a lot going on. You need to be patient and take advantage of what's given you, and there were some balls left up. And a couple of plays maybe weren't handled as well, which usually complicates things."
Cole settled down following his rough first and limited the Brewers to just four hits and no runs the rest of his start. He threw six innings and allowed three runs on eight hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Gorzelanny pitched 3 1/3 innings, allowing one run and three hits while striking out five. Burke Badenhop followed and gave up one run and two hits in two innings.
Hellweg, undoubtedly disappointed he couldn't do more to help his team and bullpen, still has plenty to prove, but start No. 1 doesn't make or break a career. A few bounces go his way and he escapes that inning with limited damage. The Brewers' clubhouse is behind him, and he knows what he can do. A rocky start doesn't change that.
But now, it's up to Hellweg to end the next chapter a little differently and move forward.
"I expect a lot of things from Hellweg moving forward, because he's got good stuff," Gomez said. "You work so hard -- six, seven years to get here -- and you have the opportunity, it's understandable that you'd be nervous. But we expect a lot of stuff from that kid, because he has a great arm."